Spins, scraps and crazy fans; Stewart wins wild Watkins Glen
Jeff Gordon made an unforced error to hand a victory to the surging Tony Stewart. That wasn't even the wildest sight at Watkins Glen on Sunday, writes David Newton.
Updated: August 12, 2007, 8:35 PM ETBy David Newton | ESPN.com
Matt Kenseth to autograph his white baseball cap during the ensuing 26-minute red-flag delay.Points leader Jeff Gordon spun out without being provoked while leading with two laps remaining.Carl Edwards created a huge dust bowl driving off the track while running a close second just before the final turn on the final lap.And, oh, Tony Stewart won for the third time in four weeks.If this doesn't help NASCAR's sagging television ratings, nothing will.In what could be a preview of the championship run when the Chase for the Nextel Cup begins in five weeks, Tony Stewart took advantage of Gordon's mistake for his fourth win on the road course.There were more entertaining moments in this race than the last five combined, including a spinout by Stewart while in the lead earlier in the event."Obviously, Jeff's situation, we were putting a lot of pressure on him," Stewart said of Gordon, who finished ninth to become the first driver to clinch a spot in the Chase. "That was our only shot at getting by him was keeping pressure on him and hoping he made a mistake."Trust me, I was the most shocked person. He's won four championships. He's the last guy you expect that to happen to."To be honest, Stewart's car was a little stronger. But there was no way he would have gotten around Gordon if Gordon had not, in his own words, "screwed up.""I feel bad for Jeff," Stewart said. "He didn't have the luxury to have all those laps to get the lead back like I did [after I spun out]."
I hope what we've seen is what we're going to see in the Chase. I hope for every four races we run we win three of them. And in the others we run second.
Said series director John Darby, "I thought it was cool as hell."But this one may continue. Harvick took a shot at Montoya even after learning what happened, saying NASCAR's first Colombian driver has been running over people all season long.Montoya still has unfinished business with Truex."He's p---ed at the 1 car," Sabates said. "He'll get his ass before the year is over. And if he doesn't, I will. That boy ain't got no brain, anyway."Stewart didn't see the incident. As he sarcastically said when asked about it, "I was kind of busy.""The only thing I've heard about it is they still had their HANS [Head and Neck Restraint] and helmets on, so it doesn't surprise me," he said.Laughs followed.Yes, the entertainment continued into the postrace interview as Stewart took shots at reporters as he often does following a win.The only person who wasn't laughing was Gordon, who waited nearly 40 minutes before coming out of his hauler."I didn't need oxygen," he said. "I needed a I won't say that. I just tried too hard."
No need to feel sorry for Gordon. If the Chase started today he'd start on top tied with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for first place based on their series-leading four wins each.Stewart would be 10 points back.But nobody is hotter than Stewart. And if this was a preview of a Chase between Stewart and Gordon, Gordon had better be nervous.
"I hope what we've seen is what we're going to see in the Chase," said Stewart, who won the title in 2002 and 2005. "I hope for every four races we run we win three of them. And in the others we run second."NASCAR officials can only hope the Chase is as full of memorable moments. Even the red-flag situation was colorful.
Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesIt was hard to beat Juan Pablo Montoya, left, and Kevin Harvick for entertainment value.
"I was just sitting there thinking about my car, the problems we had with the brakes and stuff," Kenseth said. "All of a sudden I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I saw this dude run up with a hat. He had a Sharpie."I said, 'Man, we're getting ready to race. You could be getting into some trouble.' I probably should have signed it. It would have been a cool keepsake for him since he got in all of that trouble."But by far the most entertaining occurrence was the Harvick-Montoya clash. On the first turn after a restart, Martin Truex Jr. got into the back of Montoya, who climbed the track and got into the side of Harvick to send both into a spin.As Montoya's car came to a rest, Harvick drove the front of his car to block him from continuing to the garage.Harvick, unaware that Truex instigated the incident, then gave Montoya an inappropriate gesture that Montoya obviously didn't appreciate. The two climbed out of their cars and met on the track, with Montoya grabbing the bottom of Harvick's helmet like a football player would an opponent's face mask.The two then had an in-your-face verbal exchange that continued until Montoya shoved Harvick in the chest.NASCAR officials and Harvick's teammate, Jeff Burton, eventually separated the two. "I went to Kevin and said, 'It wasn't my fault. I got hit from behind,'" Montoya said. "He started shouting and grabbing me and I don't appreciate that. I have a little respect for the guy. Well, I used to have a little respect for the guy like that, because he helped me out a lot to start with."Felix Sabates, the co-owner of Montoya's car, visited Harvick in the garage to explain what happened and tell him he too didn't appreciate the gesture."I don't think Harvick wants to school him," he said. "Montoya is a kung fu expert and he would kick his ass from here to kingdom come."For the record, neither is expected to be fined. "I don't think they were fighting," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "They were discussing things."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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